5
   

CAN I BE OBJECTIVE

 
 
wayne
 
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 02:39 am
One thing I have learned, in my time here, is the importance of objectivity to philosophical discussion.
I've become convinced that there are at least 2 major stumbling blocks to objectivity.
The first being belief, or firm belief. Objectivity depends a lot on my level of agnosticism. The moment I develop a belief my thinking becomes subjective to that belief. This does have a place, and purpose at times as long as the belief is not so firm as to be irreplaceable. Taking a position, objectively, requires I remain agnostic at some level.
The 2nd stumbling block being ego, which involves emotional attachments to a belief clouding judgement. Taking a position, objectively requires that I divorce myself from ego.
Difficult task indeed.
I think this is an objective opinion, but is it true?
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 04:48 am
@wayne,
The dichotomy of subjectivity-objectivity is rejected by philosophers interested in ontology (theory of being).

One angle on this is to start from a consideration of language as the substructure of "thought". (Sapir-Whorf hypothesis). According to some (Dennett for example) the "self" is evoked by the structure of language, as an "actor "amongst other "actors". Such a "self" will by definition be a function of the culture within which the socialization process via language took place. Hence concepts like "time" which you recently discussed cannot be separated from a particular social semantic network. That point is brought home by the study of the language of other cultures some of whom have no words for "past" and "future".

In the final analysis, "objectivity" is linked to the covert assumption in science of a "standard observer", but such an assumption must be deconstructed when observation itself is the focus of analysis.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 09:52 am
@wayne,
wayne wrote:

One thing I have learned, in my time here, is the importance of objectivity to philosophical discussion.
I've become convinced that there are at least 2 major stumbling blocks to objectivity.
The first being belief, or firm belief. Objectivity depends a lot on my level of agnosticism. The moment I develop a belief my thinking becomes subjective to that belief. This does have a place, and purpose at times as long as the belief is not so firm as to be irreplaceable. Taking a position, objectively, requires I remain agnostic at some level.
The 2nd stumbling block being ego, which involves emotional attachments to a belief clouding judgement. Taking a position, objectively requires that I divorce myself from ego.
Difficult task indeed.
I think this is an objective opinion, but is it true?


But I firmly believe that Obama is the president of the United States (don't you). I may wish he were not. I may hope he is not, come 2012.
But how is any of that incompatible with the objectivity of my belief that Obama is president. If "objective" means independent of what I would like or hope, or true even if I were not to believe it is true, my belief that Obama is president is as objective as can be. And, as I have indicated, I may have all kind of emotional attachments (whatever those are) to my belief that Obama is president. But, as I have also indicated, my belief is objective. By the way I am distinguishing (as perhaps you are not) my believing (what is going on in my head) from my belief (namely the proposition I believe, also called, "my belief") My belief (what I believe) is objective even if my believing is subjective (as in one sense it must be since it is mental). But what I believe, namely that Obama is president, is not mental, it is public, and either true or false (unfortunately, it is true). And so, it is objective, for it does not in anyway depend on whether or not I believe it is true (firmly or not).
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 10:07 am
@wayne,
I've often looked at this question as the following.
Objectivity is goal oriented. As in an objective. I must actively pursue an objective and activly employ tools and methods to achieve such. Measurements, statistics, consensus etc... must be activly sought out. These things never tell you what is they tell you about, often they tell you arbitrarily demarkated things about. Facts if you will. These facts are often simply culturally predetermined measurements etc... This spirals an observer more and more deeply in the socio-linguistic quagmire which ironically makes things more traditionally subjective.

I view subjectivity as ontological in a sense, or more precisely, that which can be intuited. Truely subjective things are more reliable because they never get processed through external filters. Don't get me wrong they are filtered plenty, lingusitically, through senses, perception ideology etc... but in a some ways they are purely intuited. But alas that is just how I view the two terms.
Jebediah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 10:23 am
@wayne,
wayne wrote:

One thing I have learned, in my time here, is the importance of objectivity to philosophical discussion.
I've become convinced that there are at least 2 major stumbling blocks to objectivity.
The first being belief, or firm belief. Objectivity depends a lot on my level of agnosticism. The moment I develop a belief my thinking becomes subjective to that belief. This does have a place, and purpose at times as long as the belief is not so firm as to be irreplaceable. Taking a position, objectively, requires I remain agnostic at some level.
The 2nd stumbling block being ego, which involves emotional attachments to a belief clouding judgement. Taking a position, objectively requires that I divorce myself from ego.
Difficult task indeed.
I think this is an objective opinion, but is it true?


Why not just say that critical thinking is important to philosophy?

I think you can have a firm belief in a philosophical position, and also have an emotional attachment to it. That seems fine and good. As long as you also have a firm belief in the importance of patient rethinking and questioning (critically), and an ego attachment to having true beliefs.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 11:13 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah wrote:

wayne wrote:

One thing I have learned, in my time here, is the importance of objectivity to philosophical discussion.
I've become convinced that there are at least 2 major stumbling blocks to objectivity.
The first being belief, or firm belief. Objectivity depends a lot on my level of agnosticism. The moment I develop a belief my thinking becomes subjective to that belief. This does have a place, and purpose at times as long as the belief is not so firm as to be irreplaceable. Taking a position, objectively, requires I remain agnostic at some level.
The 2nd stumbling block being ego, which involves emotional attachments to a belief clouding judgement. Taking a position, objectively requires that I divorce myself from ego.
Difficult task indeed.
I think this is an objective opinion, but is it true?


Why not just say that critical thinking is important to philosophy?

I think you can have a firm belief in a philosophical position, and also have an emotional attachment to it. That seems fine and good. As long as you also have a firm belief in the importance of patient rethinking and questioning (critically), and an ego attachment to having true beliefs.


Of course critical thinking is important to philosophy. In fact, philosophizing is critical thinking applied to philosophical problems. But, the question of whether we can be objective is a different matter. And asking that question is an invitation to use critical thinking to answer that question.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 11:33 am
@GoshisDead,
You illustrate the problems of the dichotomy quite well. The furthest one night argue for in the "objectivity direction" is perhaps with respect to the common physiology of humans as a species. This forms the basis of perception, but perception is conditioned and selective. On the other hand attempts to go totally towards "subjectivity" ends up with "solipsism" illogically reported in language acquired from others.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 12:03 pm
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

You illustrate the problems of the dichotomy quite well. The furthest one night argue for in the "objectivity direction" is perhaps with respect to the common physiology of humans as a species. This forms the basis of perception, but perception is conditioned and selective. On the other hand attempts to go totally towards "subjectivity" ends up with "solipsism" illogically reported in language acquired from others.


Why can't all human beings have the same physiology and one be very subjective (that is biased and have slanted views) and the other not be biased and have slanted views? Could you say why the statement that Obama is president is subjective (or why someone who makes that statement is subjective)? How is it subjective even if it is said by a human being? And whether or not it is asserted by someone who likes Obama?












0 Replies
 
GoshisDead
 
  0  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 12:16 pm
@fresco,
I'll let you play with him in this thread. I've decided to take a break from him, for a few threads. He wears me out.
kennethamy
 
  0  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 12:21 pm
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead wrote:

I'll let you play with him in this thread. I've decided to take a break from him, for a few threads. He wears me out.


Are you going to make this announcement every time I reply to a thread? What makes you think anyone cares whether or not you participate? Or whether anyone would notice? But I can understand how thinking might tire you out. May I recommend exercise?
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  0  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 12:30 pm
@GoshisDead,
Thanks ! Smile
I don't play with Ken and his "truth" games. In fact like Rorty, I find the word "truth" an irrelevance in philosophy since at that level it equates to "social consensus".
mickalos
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 05:21 pm
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

Thanks ! Smile
I don't play with Ken and his "truth" games. In fact like Rorty, I find the word "truth" an irrelevance in philosophy since at that level it equates to "social consensus".

I think Rorty's idea of truth, from the limited amount of Rorty that I've read, is a tad more complex than "truth is social consensus". Certainly, in the first chapter of Contingency, Solidarity and Irony, Rorty says something like, there is a difference between saying that truth is out there, and saying that the world is out there. Truth is a property of sentences, rather than a property of the world, and it does not exist independently of our beliefs, though, there clearly are objects in the world whose effects are completely causally independent of any human mental state. A lot of people are quite keen to say that Rorty subscribes to some kind of pernicious relativism, but in fact, properly elucidated, I think it is a very tame version of linguistic idealism. Some kind of Nietzschean perspective: "There are no facts, only interpretations", or even a Wittgensteinian perspective (if you've read any Rorty, you will know how much he bangs on about Wittgenstein, along with Davidson, Heideggar, and Dewey): "There are no absolutely correct concepts". The idea that he is trying to get at, I think, is that no description is closer to reality than any other, but some are more useful for certain purposes than others (i.e. "the sun rises every morning", and "the earth rotates on its axis once per day"). It's very hard not to be sympathetic with it if you see the flaws in the correspondence theory of truth.

On the original post, I think the point about holding certain beliefs compromising objectivity is a very good one. The point at the heart of Quine's Two Dogmas is that propositions confront experience not individually, but rather, in clusters. When I believe I leave a book in a draw and come back later not to find it I have a range of beliefs that I may revise: "I left the book in this draw", "Objects always persist in space and time", "Nobody else has been in this drawer", even "1=1". Usually I revise the first or third, but the point is that experience massively underdetermines which is the correct belief to revise. The only options seem to be complete scepticism, or like Rorty and Quine, some kind of pragmatism.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jul, 2010 12:01 am
@mickalos,
Thanks for that comprehensive reply. I have read Rorty's comparison of Heidegger and Wittgenstein on "language" but little else. My own position is tempered by Genetic Epistemology (Piaget and Maturana) which emphasises the importance of "observer states" in transactions with "the world", hence my focus on "consensus" as the basis of pragmatics. Your word "belief" could be equated with such "states". I am not sure how your (Rorty's ?) statement...

Quote:
there clearly are objects in the world whose effects are completely causally independent of any human mental state.


..fits into that picture, especially with respect to the word "object" since for me that immediately implies "an observer". Would you care to elaborate ?
0 Replies
 
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jul, 2010 12:16 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

wayne wrote:

One thing I have learned, in my time here, is the importance of objectivity to philosophical discussion.
I've become convinced that there are at least 2 major stumbling blocks to objectivity.
The first being belief, or firm belief. Objectivity depends a lot on my level of agnosticism. The moment I develop a belief my thinking becomes subjective to that belief. This does have a place, and purpose at times as long as the belief is not so firm as to be irreplaceable. Taking a position, objectively, requires I remain agnostic at some level.
The 2nd stumbling block being ego, which involves emotional attachments to a belief clouding judgement. Taking a position, objectively requires that I divorce myself from ego.
Difficult task indeed.
I think this is an objective opinion, but is it true?


But I firmly believe that Obama is the president of the United States (don't you). I may wish he were not. I may hope he is not, come 2012.
But how is any of that incompatible with the objectivity of my belief that Obama is president. If "objective" means independent of what I would like or hope, or true even if I were not to believe it is true, my belief that Obama is president is as objective as can be. And, as I have indicated, I may have all kind of emotional attachments (whatever those are) to my belief that Obama is president. But, as I have also indicated, my belief is objective. By the way I am distinguishing (as perhaps you are not) my believing (what is going on in my head) from my belief (namely the proposition I believe, also called, "my belief") My belief (what I believe) is objective even if my believing is subjective (as in one sense it must be since it is mental). But what I believe, namely that Obama is president, is not mental, it is public, and either true or false (unfortunately, it is true). And so, it is objective, for it does not in anyway depend on whether or not I believe it is true (firmly or not).


As I understand it, Fresco is saying that objective, by nature of observation, is a degree.
Your assumption of Obama as president is subject to time and your interpretation of fact.
You are right though, a lot depends on the exact meaning of objective.
I think that your example may more closely apply to the first stumbling block I proposed, that of remaining agnostic. The agnostic will believe when sufficient evidence is presented that Obama is president. " Dewey elected President" fooled all but the most agnostic.
0 Replies
 
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jul, 2010 12:29 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

The dichotomy of subjectivity-objectivity is rejected by philosophers interested in ontology (theory of being).

One angle on this is to start from a consideration of language as the substructure of "thought". (Sapir-Whorf hypothesis). According to some (Dennett for example) the "self" is evoked by the structure of language, as an "actor "amongst other "actors". Such a "self" will by definition be a function of the culture within which the socialization process via language took place. Hence concepts like "time" which you recently discussed cannot be separated from a particular social semantic network. That point is brought home by the study of the language of other cultures some of whom have no words for "past" and "future".

In the final analysis, "objectivity" is linked to the covert assumption in science of a "standard observer", but such an assumption must be deconstructed when observation itself is the focus of analysis.


Good point, when I posted this I had not looked that far yet. Which is why I post anything.
I have a feel for your meaning here but I don't yet fully understand all of your description. The standard observer, I think you are saying, is an Ideal, which is only understandable as a matter of degree, subject to factors linked to the reality of human existence?
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jul, 2010 12:33 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah wrote:

wayne wrote:

One thing I have learned, in my time here, is the importance of objectivity to philosophical discussion.
I've become convinced that there are at least 2 major stumbling blocks to objectivity.
The first being belief, or firm belief. Objectivity depends a lot on my level of agnosticism. The moment I develop a belief my thinking becomes subjective to that belief. This does have a place, and purpose at times as long as the belief is not so firm as to be irreplaceable. Taking a position, objectively, requires I remain agnostic at some level.
The 2nd stumbling block being ego, which involves emotional attachments to a belief clouding judgement. Taking a position, objectively requires that I divorce myself from ego.
Difficult task indeed.
I think this is an objective opinion, but is it true?


Why not just say that critical thinking is important to philosophy?

I think you can have a firm belief in a philosophical position, and also have an emotional attachment to it. That seems fine and good. As long as you also have a firm belief in the importance of patient rethinking and questioning (critically), and an ego attachment to having true beliefs.


Maybe it would be more realistic to say that these stumbling blocks apply more directly to critical thinking.
Although, isn't the purpose of critical thinking to be more objective?
0 Replies
 
Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jul, 2010 12:43 am
You can be objective only to the extent that you can exempt yourself from bias and have the knowledge to support said objectivity.
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jul, 2010 12:54 am
@Chumly,
Chumly wrote:

You can be objective only to the extent that you can exempt yourself from bias and have the knowledge to support said objectivity.


Yes, thus my argument for an agnostic view.
The role of ego also accounts largely for the degree of objectivity we achieve.
If you don't believe that, just look at some of the simple errors people make when personalities conflict in some threads.
0 Replies
 
Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jul, 2010 12:55 am
Of course knowledge may well carry an inherent bias!
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Jul, 2010 01:05 am
@wayne,
Quote:
I have a feel for your meaning here but I don't yet fully understand all of your description. The standard observer, I think you are saying, is an Ideal, which is only understandable as a matter of degree, subject to factors linked to the reality of human existence?


Several problem arises with the italicised phrase.
1. At one level "human physiology" determines conceptions of "the world", hence the limits of description are anthropocentric. (Man is the Measure of All Things)
2. At second level, descriptions of "physiology" are themselves anthropocentrically driven. There may be alternative descriptions (holistic ones) which start from the axiom of "existence" as "relationship", rather than "ontological independence".
3. Some authors (notably Heidegger) suggest that the word "existence" only applies to "a human conception of being" (Dasein).

Taken together, these indicate that the covert concept of "a standard observer" is useful in the majority of situations where consensus applies. The words "subjectivity", "objectivity" and "reality" are meaningful only in relationship to renogotiating a consensus. The tacit assumption that they apply to some "ontological entity" independent of our own needs and actions is a useful fiction.

Quote:
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

Albert Einstein

 

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